Jonathan Roumie talks joy, struggles of starring in 'The Chosen': 'I'm not Jesus'

Jonathan Roumie
Jonathan Roumie | Amazon Prime Video

Before Jonathan Roumie shot to fame playing Jesus Christ in the biblical drama "The Chosen," he was struggling to make ends meet. At times, he was unsure of where his next meal was coming from. 

But this journey, which the 49-year-old actor candidly discusses in the new docu-series "Jonathan and Jesus," now streaming on Amazon Prime, was essential in shaping his appreciation for success and deepening his spirituality.

"I think if I had experienced success much earlier in my career, I wouldn't have appreciated it in this way, and I most certainly wouldn't have developed the faith that I have now in the same way," Roumie, a professing Catholic, told The Christian Post.

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"Maybe I would have gotten there in another route, but I think for me, this whole process of getting to the point where I didn't have food for tomorrow, I think that was all part of God's design to make me realize that I needed to depend on Him. I was used to depending on myself and not really activating my faith in a way that I think He knew that once was activated, could go and change people's hearts and change the world one person at a time by playing a character based on the Son of God who changed the entire world. I wouldn't have had the maturity beforehand. I wouldn't relate to the suffering Jesus had gone through in my own way."

Created, directed and co-written by Dallas Jenkins, "The Chosen," the first multi-season series dedicated to the life of Jesus Christ, was the highest crowd-funded media project by the time it launched in 2017, raising over $10 million from over 19,000 investors through a platform called VidAngel.

The series quickly gained a large and dedicated fan base, with many applauding its authentic and human portrayal of Jesus and the biblical characters. Today, "The Chosen" is a global phenomenon gearing up for Season 4, which will be released in theaters on Feb. 1. 

According to Roumie, the longer he plays Jesus, the greater his thirst to learn more about the Son of God becomes. 

In "Jonathan and Jesus," viewers follow Roumie as he explores the impact Jesus Christ had on the world throughout history. He visits historic sites in Rome, Paris and more. He talks with Christian figures, including rocker Alice Cooper, Francis Chan, Bob Goff and others, to learn how Jesus changed their lives. The Killers' lead singer, Brandon Flowers, and Roumie's sister, Olivia, also appear in the four-part series, while ministry leaders and experts like Rabbi Jason Sobel weigh in on the nature of Christianity. 

Through his interactions with people of various Christian backgrounds, Roumie said he learned "there is more that unites us than separates us denominationally."

"That's what I loved about meeting all these folks," Roumie said. "It just made me realize we're all brothers and sisters in the Lord. I think if we can find ways to get closer, figure out ways to sit at the same table and break bread and know that we all serve the same God, I think the world will be a slightly better place. Having these conversations is a way for us to get there."

For Roumie, overnight success hasn't come without difficulties. In the series, he opens up about the unique challenges he faces as an actor deeply associated with such a significant religious figure.

In one scene, he recounts instances where people have told him that they see his eyes when praying to Jesus, a revelation he finds somewhat disturbing. Since its inception, "The Chosen" has sparked debate among Christians about the theology behind media images of Jesus, with some, like author Voddie Baucham, refusing to watch the series.

"It's not really my job to control what they think or how they react; the only thing I can do is remind them that I'm not Jesus. I'm Jonathan. I'm a person," Roumie said. "I'm just a dude. I'm playing this role, and I have a deep, deep, deep devotion to Christ. I think letting people kind of see behind the curtain helps clarify that distinction and that separation and hopefully will give people a better understanding of what the challenges that I have."

The actor hopes the docu-series provides an opportunity for viewers to see behind the curtain of his life and understand the separation between the actor and the role he plays. By sharing his experiences, he wants fans to gain a better understanding of the challenges he faces and approach their interactions with him more thoughtfully.

"If they do happen to meet me in person somewhere because it's always possible, maybe they'll approach it differently," he explained. "I've had pretty favorable encounters, but there are some people that haven't been the kindest and they just take certain things for granted. You could be at a table, and they just kind of come up and snap a selfie while you're in the middle of taking a bite of food. ... Very rarely does something like that happen, but it just kind of makes you think like, 'Wow, OK, there's a distinction that needs to be made.'"

Roumie said he finds solace in prayer, daily mass and spiritual guidance, practices that keep him grounded and focused on God. Surrender to God, he said, remains a central theme in his life, a principle he continually embraces amidst the growing success of "The Chosen."

"I tend to do a lot of praying, kind of like when Jesus was overwhelmed and at the end of a long day, He would go off by Himself and go on a boat or just go up to a mountain and talk to the Father," he reflected. "I find myself doing that often."

"if I were to believe any of the hype that anybody might write or believe or let any of the compliments go to my head, then I'm in dangerous territory," Roumie added. "So as long as I stay in prayer and connected to my faith, it allows me the vehicle to be able to stay surrendered to God."

"Jonathan and Jesus" is now playing on Amazon Prime.

Leah M. Klett is a reporter for The Christian Post. She can be reached at:

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